UN rights boss calls bombing near Saudi holy mosque an attack on Islam

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Suicide bomb hits Islam's second-holiest site in Saudi Arabia

GENEVA/DUBAI, July 5 (Reuters) - The U.N. human rights chief on Tuesday called a suicide bombing outside the Prophet Mohammad's Mosque in the Saudi city of Medina an attack on Islam itself and many Muslims expressed shock that their second-holiest site had been targeted.

Three apparently coordinated suicide attacks on Monday targeted Medina, the U.S. consulate in Jeddah and the largely Shi'ite Muslim city of Qatif on Monday. At least four security officers were killed.

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No group has claimed responsibility but Islamic State has carried out similar bombings in the U.S.-allied kingdom in the past year, targeting Shi'ites and Saudi security forces.

Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and a member of the Jordanian royal family, delivered his remarks via a spokesman in Geneva.

"This is one of the holiest sites in Islam, and for such an attack to take place there, during Ramadan, can be considered a direct attack on Muslims all across the world," he said, referring to the Islamic holy month.

"It is an attack on the religion itself."

See photos of the aftermath:

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Mosque bombing in Medina
In this photo provided by Noor Punasiya, people stand by an explosion site in Medina, Saudi Arabia, Monday, July 4, 2016. State-linked Saudi news websites reported an explosion Monday near one of Islam's holiest sites in the city of Medina, as two suicide bombers struck in different cities. (Courtesy of Noor Punasiya via AP)
Saudi Emir of Medina Faisal bin Salman bin Abdulaziz (C-L) and security officers inspect the site of the suicide attack near the security headquarters of the Prophet's Mosque in Medina City on July 4, 2016. Four Saudi security personnel were killed and five others were wounded in a suicide bombing today outside one of Islam's holiest sites, the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, the interior ministry said. / AFP / STR (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Saudi security personel gather at the site of the suicide attack near the security headquarters of the Prophet's Mosque in Medina City on July 4, 2016. Four Saudi security personnel were killed and five others were wounded in a suicide bombing today outside one of Islam's holiest sites, the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, the interior ministry said. / AFP / STR (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Saudi Emir of Medina Prince Faisal bin Salman bin Abdulaziz (L) visits an injured policeman at a local hospital following a suicide attack near the security headquarters of the Prophet's Mosque in Medina City on July 4, 2016. Four Saudi security personnel were killed and five others were wounded in a suicide bombing today outside one of Islam's holiest sites, the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, the interior ministry said. / AFP / STR (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
In this Monday, July 4, 2016 photo released by Saudi Press Agency, SPA, Sheikh al-Faleh, center, deputy director of the Prophet's Mosque, and others visit a man who was injured when a suicide bomber attacked a Jeddah mosque Monday, at a hospital in Medina, Saudi Arabia. An Interior Ministry statement issued on Tuesday said a Pakistani man who came to the kingdom 12 years ago to work as a driver carried out the suicide bombing outside the the Prophet's Mosque, one of Islam's holiest sites. (Saudi Press Agency via AP)
In this Monday, July 4, 2016 photo released by Saudi Press Agency, SPA, Sheikh al-Faleh, deputy director of the Prophet's Mosque, kisses the forehead of a man who was injured when a suicide bomber attacked a Jeddah mosque Monday, at a hospital in Medina, Saudi Arabia. An Interior Ministry statement issued on Tuesday said a Pakistani man who came to the kingdom 12 years ago to work as a driver carried out the suicide bombing outside the the Prophet's Mosque, one of Islam's holiest sites. (Saudi Press Agency via AP)
Supporters of a Pakistani religious group chant slogans during a demonstration to condemn a suicide bombing in Saudi Arabia, in Lahore, Pakistan, July 5, 2016. Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Nafees Zakaria said authorities in Islamabad were working to get more details about the man. He condemned the attacks and expressed solidarity with Saudi Arabia, saying the kingdom valued the contributions of Pakistani guest workers. The banner in center in Urdu language reading as 'we strongly condemn terrorism in Medina'. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)
Pakistani Muslims protest against the suicide attack near the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, in Karachi on July 5, 2016. Four Saudi security personnel were killed and five others were wounded in the suicide bombing that took place as Muslim worshippers were gathering at the mosque for the sunset prayers, which mark the time when they could break their fast during the holy month of Ramadan. / AFP / RIZWAN TABASSUM (Photo credit should read RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images)
Pakistani Muslims protest against the suicide attack near the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, in Karachi on July 5, 2016. Four Saudi security personnel were killed and five others were wounded in the suicide bombing that took place as Muslim worshippers were gathering at the mosque for the sunset prayers, which mark the time when they could break their fast during the holy month of Ramadan. / AFP / RIZWAN TABASSUM (Photo credit should read RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images)
Pakistani Muslims protest against the suicide attack near the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, in Lahore on July 5, 2016. Four Saudi security personnel were killed and five others were wounded in the suicide bombing that took place as Muslim worshippers were gathering at the mosque for the sunset prayers, which mark the time when they could break their fast during the holy month of Ramadan. / AFP / ARIF ALI (Photo credit should read ARIF ALI/AFP/Getty Images)
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Militant attacks on Medina are unprecedented. The city is home to the second-holiest site in Islam, a mosque built by the Prophet Mohammed, the founder of Islam, which also houses his tomb.

Attacks on Mecca, the most sacred place in Islam, have also been extremely rare. The Al Saud ruling family considers itself the protectors of both sites. Islamic State says the Saudi rulers are apostates and has declared its intention to topple them.

Saudis were rattled by the rare, high-profile attack.

"I apologize to everyone if I don't congratulate you this Eid," Khaled bin Saleh al-Shathri, a Saudi businessman, wrote on Twitter.

"I am shocked by the deaths of five of my brothers and the wounding of four others as they guarded the holiest places."

Iran also condemned the attacks.

Saudi Arabia's crown prince and anti-terror tsar, Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz, sought on Tuesday to reassure Saudis of the country's security.

"The security of the homeland is good, it is at its highest levels and thanks be to God it gets stronger every day," the state news agency SPA quoted him as saying during a visit to some of the wounded in the Jeddah attack.

Prince Mohammed has been credited for successfully ending a bombing campaign by al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia between 2003-2006.

Monday's bombings came days before the end of the holy month of Ramadan when Muslims fast from dawn until dusk.

Saudi security officials say the Islamic State's supporters inside the kingdom mainly act independently from the group in Iraq and Syria.

Salah al-Budair, the imam of the Prophet's Mosque, warned young people about being lured by the "malignant" ideology of Islamic State.

"(The bomber) is an infidel who has sold himself to the enemies of his religion and his country."

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